Taxi Drivers: The Good and the Bad

Taxi is my main mode of transportation here — it’s super cheap (like $2 from my apartment to the city center) and convenient (there’s one at every corner). And while most of my experiences so far have been normal, my friend and I had one incident the other day that was pretty crazy. One cab driver, who took us from Kentron to my apartment in Komitas, told us it would be 2000 dram, when we very well know from riding so many taxis that it’s only supposed to be between 700 and 800 dram — 900 at most. So naturally we told him we know he’s lying and that didn’t sit well with him. He started yelling a bunch of excuses, and without flinching, I scolded back, saying that I refuse to pay 2000 dram. It’s not the money — 2000 dram is about $5 — it’s about the principle. Seeing that this argument was getting nowhere, I threw 1000 dram and got out of the car. He proceeded to get out of the car too and asked to see my purse. I yelled back and called my brother to scare the driver, while my friend took pictures of his license plate. Then we ran off as fast as we could.

While this may sound like a terrifying scene to experience, and by no means was it a walk in the park, surprisingly it wasn’t as scary as it seems. Yes there was a lot of yelling going on, but I was oddly calm inside. I had no fear, even when he came out of the car. In America, I would never have the audacity to yell at a mean, grown, big man, mainly out of fear of being badly hurt, but in Armenia this comfort and fearlessness come over me. After all, it was one of my people I was arguing with and that made things feel different. He was clearly angry and so was I, but I didn’t feel as though he would attack me. I’m not saying that there aren’t bad people here or that bad things don’t happen, but I’m less worried about that happening here.

On the flip side, one late night, my friend and I were going to Tsisernagaberd, and since there aren’t many cabs up there, we asked ours to wait for us for about 30 minutes. When we were late by about 15 minutes, he told us he got worried and thought to himself “Why didn’t I accompany these girls up there?” He had seen a few young boys walk up behind us and got worried when we were late. He even told us he walked up a bit and yelled out our names (my friend thinks he did this to get a bigger tip out of us but I’d like to think not). It felt like something our dads or uncles — not a random cab driver — would do. But in the end, even though we are technically strangers, it’s not surprising that he wanted to protect us like his daughters because in the end we’re all Armenian. As they say here, aryoonuh kashoom ah (loose translation: blood is thicker than water).

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